iPad reviews of the week: Groove Coaster, Allied Star Police, Ducati Challenge, Mooniacs

Game: Ducati Challenge HD
Price: $5.99/£3.99
Size: 148MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

Ducati Challenge doesn't have the same kind of overwhelming polish as something like Real Racing 2 HD – which is easily the sharpest and most robust racer on the iPad to date – but bike racing doesn't have the same kind of App Store presence as its four-wheeled counterparts. On that note, it's easier to forgive some of Ducati Challenge's weaker elements – like rigid animations and a snooze-worthy campaign offering – as the core simulation-style approach is admittedly pretty solid and it's arguably the best iOS bike offering we've seen to date. And the licensed 2011 Ducati bikes are sure to draw some attention from die-hard motorbike junkies.

On the tarmac, Ducati Challenge is a pretty standard sim-style bike racer, in which braking is rarely optional and wild curves dominate each of the six winding tracks (reverse versions are also available). The licensed crotch rockets can be controlled with one of a handful of distinct schemes, whether you want touch-based steering using virtual buttons or prefer to move around the track by tilting your iPad like a madman. While the tracks don't always pop, they're decently detailed and the game moves at a pretty steady clip; plus, you can adjust the quality of the environments based on your iPad model and frame rate preference, giving you a slight hand in how the game ultimately runs on your device.

Grinding through the bland championship races against the computer isn't hugely exciting, but the game does support local four-player battles over Wi-Fi and lets you match up against iPhone players as well. Since the original release a couple months ago, Ducati Challenge HD has been updated with a couple significant refreshes, each of which improved performance and added small features to the experience. It leaves us ever hopeful that developer Digital Tales will continue to punch up this solid licensed racer, but even without further notable updates, two-wheeled die-hards seeking an iPad option shouldn't hesitate to invest in this decent release.

Game: Mooniacs
Price: $1.99/£1.39
Size: 140MB
Buy it now from the iTunes store:US/UK

If there's one thing we've learned during the time with our iPads and iPhones, it's that people love flinging things around; birds in particular, but we imagine they're open to shooting other creatures around brightly-hued stages. How about colorful aliens that look like anthropomorphic rocks and alphabet letters alike? If that sounds like a hoot and a holler to you, Namco Bandai's new original universal iOS offering Mooniacs may be right up your alley, and truth be told, we got a kick out of some of these light, casual-oriented challenges. We just wish this paid game wasn't trying so hard to grab a few more bucks at every turn.

The 90 included stages each give you a single shot to rack up enough JujuBee icons to move onto the next stage, with score multipliers awarded for snagging the bigger pieces first. Initially, it's just your one character being flung against the walls and platforms to create the perfect arc to grab all the items, but as the game progresses, you'll encounter allies that can be bumped against to spread the work among comrades in the quest to rebuild the alien spaceship. Getting enough stars in each stage to move along to the next is typically a breeze, but you'll need more than the bare minimum along the way to unlock later chapters, which may mean replaying stages multiple times to figure out the best approach.

Mooniacs certainly carries the kind of cheery, cartoon-like aesthetic that has pushed other casual games to iOS stardom, but it also bears a couple of the field's less favorable aspects. Despite dropping a couple bucks on the game, the game often tries to sell you on additional content, whether it's bonus levels or purchasing bunches of JujuBees to access alternate endings – as if the plight of the generic creatures is your primary motivation for playing. We've noted Namco Bandai's sometimes curious pricing schemes in this spot before, but that doesn't make it any less grating to feel like you're getting a slightly compromised experience in the name of bonus profit. Mooniacs remains a decent experience for younger players and less hardened game players, but be consistently ready to roll your eyes at the sales shenanigans.

Jul 31, 2011

Rovio head says company "betting everything" on series

Partnership to help EA’s “drive towards a $1 billion digital business"

But the changes also mean Aussie gamers get their apps for less